Over 1 million S Sudan refugees in Uganda: UN

Arua, Uganda: The number of South Sudanese who have fled to Uganda has hit one million, the UN said on Thursday, with no end in sight to the war behind the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.
The nearly four-year civil war has pushed an average of 1,800 South Sudanese into neighbouring Uganda every day for the past year, many of them women and children fleeing “barbaric violence”, according to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR).
Another one million have sought refuge elsewhere in the region, but it is Uganda that has borne the brunt of the crisis.
“We still have new arrivals coming, and we cannot really see, you can say, the end of the new arrivals,” said Bik Lum, head of the UNHCR in Arua in northern Uganda, home to Bidibidi, the world’s largest refugee camp with around 270,000 residents.
South Sudan’s civil war began in December 2013 just two years after it obtained independence, when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.
The conflict initially pitted Machar’s ethnic Nuer against Kiir’s Dinka, but since the collapse of a peace agreement in 2015, the war has engulfed other ethnic groups and local grievances. Thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced by the violence, which plunged part of the country into famine earlier this year.
“The number of hungry and displaced South Sudanese is overwhelming,” said International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) president Peter Maurer.
“The staggering scale of suffering is evidence of the cumulative effect of three-and-a-half years of a style of fighting that appears calibrated to maximise misery. Warfare should not directly impact the lives of so many civilians.”
In addition to the one million South Sudanese refugees in Uganda, at least a million more have fled to Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, according to UN numbers.
An additional two million people are internally displaced.
“Recent arrivals continue to speak of barbaric violence, with armed groups reportedly burning down houses with civilians inside, people
being killed in front of family members, sexual assaults of women and girls, and kidnapping of boys for forced conscription,” the UNCHR said in a statement.
— AFP